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India, China echo similar positions on ‘territorial integrity’


FEBRUARY 26, 2022

AS DELHI tried to maintain a delicate balance between the US-led Western bloc and Russia, India and China found themselves on the same side of the vote at the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Saturday, with both choosing to abstain.

Both the countries also invoked a similar formulation on “territorial integrity and sovereignty” and the “UN charter”.

China’s permanent representative to the UN, Zhang Jun, said the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states should be respected and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be upheld… Security of one country cannot come at the cost of undermining the security of other nations…Ukraine should become a bridge between East and West.”

India’s envoy to the UN, T S Tirumurti, said: “The contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. All member states need to honour these principles in finding a constructive way forward.”

Interestingly, Beijing underlined its sensitivities on “territorial integrity and sovereignty”, which is one of its core principles in foreign policy, while India has been at the receiving end of China’s aggressive behavior at the Line of Actual Control. Since May 2020, Delhi has repeatedly targeted Beijing by invoking “territorial integrity and sovereignty” in its public statements.

But China’s decision to abstain, instead of using its veto alongside usual ally Russia, was different from its previous voting behavior on the Russia-Ukraine issue. On January 31, on the question of a procedural vote on whether to discuss Ukraine at the UNSC or not, China and Russia had opposed the vote.

Articulating its position on “legitimate security interests” that echoed with a nuanced tilt towards the Russian position, India had abstained then too, along with Kenya and Gabon.

This time, Kenya and Gabon voted in favour of the US-sponsored resolution, leaving India as the only country in the 15-member UNSC maintaining its “abstention” vote. While the first vote on January 31 was a procedural vote, it was on a more substantive issue of a draft resolution this time.

India’s past record has been to balance between the West, led by the US, and Russia. Sources said India maintained its “consistent, steadfast and balanced position on the matter”.

A key aspect of Saturday’s vote was the watering down of some of the text by the sponsors of the resolution to garner wider support. Delhi and Beijing seem to have worked on it as well in the last few hours ahead of the vote.

An Indian government source said “an earlier draft of the resolution had proposed moving the resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which provides the framework within which the Security Council may take enforcement action”. However, this was dropped in the final version that was put to vote. They also changed the term “condemns” to “deplores” in sections related to Russia’s attack.

While Russia – which chaired the UNSC meeting since it holds the presidency for February – vetoed the resolution, India, China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) abstained. The remaining 11 members of the UNSC – including the US, UK and France – voted in favour of the resolution, which did not pass since Russia vetoed it.

India’s voting and statement, sources said, followed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also spoke to US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and European Union’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell among others. On Saturday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to Modi and asked for political support at the UNSC.

“India has been in touch with all sides, urging parties concerned to return to the negotiating table,” said an Indian government source. “By abstaining, India retained the option of reaching out to relevant sides in an effort to bridge the gap and find the middle ground with an aim to foster dialogue and diplomacy,” said the source.

Courtesy/Source: Indian Express